Since Abdel Fattah el-Sisi took power in Egypt in 2013, human rights have continuously deteriorated. In the past decade, President el-Sisi has dissolved any meaningful political opposition and severely restricted media freedom, and civil liberties, including but not limited to freedom of assembly and speech. The democratic backsliding and the erosion of the rule of law increased in 2022. As of November 2022, according to local and international human rights organization reports, there are more than 60,000 political prisoners in Egypt, including hundreds of journalists, researchers, students, and scholars.
As the el-Sisi government has tightened its grip on the state and civil society hundreds of students and scholars have faced disciplinary sanctions, military trials, travel bans, physical and psychological violence, forced disappearances, and extrajudicial killings. Women and members of religious, ethnic, and sexual minorities are in a particularly vulnerable position and subject to discrimination and violence. Hundreds of people have been arrested and tried on charges of “debauchery” for their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Among them are Kholoud Said, the head of the Translation Unit of the publication department at Bibliotheca Alexandrina (BA), and Marwa Arafa, freelance translator. Said and Arafa have been in detention at the country’s notorious Al Qanater Prison for women for over two years on the baseless charge of joining a terrorist organization, criticizing the el-Sisi government, misusing social media, and spreading false news about the COVID19 pandemic. Tens of other academics, students, and researchers currently serve prison sentences or are facing travel bans on unsubstantiated charges. Foreign researchers and scholars are also no longer welcome in the country. In the past years many foreign nationals have been expelled or denied entry to the country. The state has full control over the public education curriculum and the operation of public schools. Since on-campus political activity or anti-government comments have led to the dismissal, arrest, or incarceration of a number of prominent scholars, most of the scholars and teachers self-censor the content of their courses. As a signatory move of autocratic regimes, the appointment and promotion of academics in Egypt are dependent on state security clearance and approval. Moreover, academics are required to obtain pre-approval from security officials to travel abroad for research purposes (conference, workshop, fellowship), otherwise they are subject to prosecution by emergency courts.
Endangered Scholars Worldwide remains concerned with the condition of academics and the future of higher education in Egypt. For the past decade, ESW has been monitoring the struggle of academics in Egypt case by case, making inquiries on a daily basis. The ongoing tensions in Egypt have a profoundly unsettling effect on academic freedom and pose a grave threat to higher education on a national scale. We at ESW look forward to sharing the news of full acquittal and reinstatement of those who were dismissed from their positions and/or imprisoned following peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression and association, conduct that is expressly protected under international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Egypt is party.
(Last updated February 10, 2023)
Please send appeals to the following:
Ambassador Motaz Zahran
Egyptian Embassy to the United States
3521 International Ct. NW
Washington DC 20008
Mohamed Fathi Ahmed Edrees
Egyptian Permanent Representative to the United Nations
800 Second Avenue
New York, NY 10017